Bennett, Ogden Avenue Extension (1922)

Burnham and Bennett proposed the creation and extensions of several diagonal avenues to cut through the city, arguing that these would be more efficient than the prevailing rectangular grid in moving traffic and that the avenues would, in the manner of Paris and Washington, D.C., provide attractive crosstown vistas. The only major recommendation to be implemented was the extension of Ogden Avenue from near west side Union Park, to lakeside Lincoln Park. The idea of connecting the two parks in fact had been floating around City Hall for more than forty years before ground was broken in 1922. The massive project took about a decade to complete, its keystone being the construction of two bascule bridges and a viaduct over the North Branch of the Chicago River at Goose Island, rendered here by an artist from the Chicago Board of Local Improvements.

As the drawing suggests, the wide roadway and complex of bridges and viaducts were designed to move vehicular traffic at speed across the river, off-ramps providing access to the industrial district centered on Goose Island, but the main roadway would be unimpeded by the congestion generated by the district. The modern high-capacity roadway envisioned in this drawing was built but was never heavily utilized. East of the river, Ogden Avenue’s extended route disrupted land plots as it cut through the gridded residential streets of Old Town and Lincoln Park. Illinois law limited the ability of the City to condemn and acquire properties along the roadway in a manner that would have helped develop extended Ogden Avenue into a vibrant commercial thoroughfare. By the 1960s residents of Old Town and Lincoln Park wanted to shut down the Ogden Avenue extension due to its underutilization and disruptive effects to the continuity of these affluent neighborhoods. Beginning in 1967, the entire northern extension of Ogden Avenue east of the river was removed. The viaduct itself was demolished in 1993, removing the only new diagonal avenue laid out in the Plan of Chicago.

 

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Phillips, J. C. “Excess Condemnation for City, County, Township and Regional Planning”. The Journal of Land & Public Utility Economics. Vol. 13, No. 2 (May, 1937) pp. 174-180.

Quaife, Milo M. Chicago's Highways Old and New From Indian Trail to Motor Road. Chicago: D. F. Keller & Company, 1923.

Edward H. Bennett, “Ogden Ave. Extension, “ in Chicago Plan by the Board of Local Improvement (Chicago: Board of Local Improvements, 1922). Ryerson and Burnham Library, Art Institute Digital Collections